Film Review – Prisoners (2013)


Title – Prisoners (2013)

Director – Denis Villeneuve (Incendies)

Cast – Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal , Paul Dano, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo, Viola Davis

Plot – When his daughter and young friend go missing on Thanksgiving father Keller Dover (Jackman) is thrown into a situation where his quest to find the whereabouts of the girls will stop at nothing, including the kidnapping and torture of suspect Alex Jones (Dano). As this is happening Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) himself must deal with questions and situations the push him to the limit as the two man race the clock to find the truth out.

“Pray for the best, but prepare for the worst”

Review by Eddie on 25/10/2013

For his English language debut French/Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (maker of the under-seen and highly recommended Incendies) has crafted a dread laden, beautifully made thriller that shows his now Hollywood counterparts a thing or to about how to create a white knuckle believable tale of crime, loss, love and how far parental instincts will go to protect those they love. Without a doubt Prisoners is one of this year’s most fully formed, well-acted and involving movies.

The tale Prisoners tells is one that deserves to be kept to a pre-knowledge minimal, all that needs to be known is Jackman’s Keller will stop at nothing to find his missing daughter going as far to kidnap the man he believes knows about her whereabouts in the form of the ever great and creepy Paul Dano as mentally handicapped Alex. This particular action is counteracted with Gyllenhaal’s Detective Loki, a man who has never not solved a case and runs into increasingly scary and mysterious possibilities of what may have happened  to the girls and who may have done it. The story written by Aaron Guzikowski is a tight and taut example of how to play out an investigation procedural movie and by the films end you feel well and truly like you yourself have endured as much as the characters themselves.

Prisoners would not be half the story it is on final presentation without the absolutely top tier Oscar worthy work of its main players, with particular praise going to both Jackman and Gyllenhaal who perhaps arguably give career best turns here. Never before on screen has Jackman seemed so dangerous and volatile (yes even more so than his famed mutant) and Gyllenhaal aces his role as Loki, a loner with clear OCD mannerisms but a detective you would want working on your case. Other aspects that make Prisoners such a pleasure is Villeneuve’s stout direction, Johaan Johannsson’s hauntingly constructed and well used score and I was wondering why the film was just so darn beautiful when it shouldn’t of been then I read during the credits cinematography great Roger Deakins was at the helm therefore giving Prisoners an aesthetic that is again one of the year’s best.

With so many films this year disappointing and missing the mark ever so slightly it’s a breath of fresh air to witness a film as complete as Prisoners is. While not an enjoyable experience perse due to its unquestionable bleak tone and subject matter it is a must see movie event and (in my opinion the following is high praise indeed) – the best movie of its type since Zodiac, a film it mirrors in many ways and a film in which it can sit proudly equal to.

4 and a half red whistles out of 5

41 responses to “Film Review – Prisoners (2013)

  1. I thought this film was amazing (I gave it an A in my review). It makes you squirm, but you can’t take your eyes off the screen. I hadn’t seen such a gripping drama in some time. So glad you enjoyed it, too!

  2. I haven’t seen this one yet, but I am definitely going to. My favorite movie critic Wesley Morris had some seriously heavy critiques of it, mostly in how the film deals with race. It is interesting that Howard takes a backseat to Jackman, despite being the superior actor.

    All of this just makes me want to see the movie. It sounds well-crafted and laden with meaning.

    • It’s well worth seeking out Jacob, I had none of the issues Morris had with the film and I would say after your viewing of it you would agree Howard is perhaps the weak link in this ensemble.

      Your end sentence about the movie sounding well crafted and laden with meaning is spot on! I believe you’ll really appreciate the art on display here.

  3. Strong review. I think it had some obvious flaws (it’s treatment of Howard and Davis’ characters being one of them – though I’m not sure how much that really has to do with race as much as it does with a changed tone), but I agree Prisoners was always interesting and always unsettling. Definitely worth a watch.

  4. I wasn’t sure of this one initially but I reckon I might have to go see it based on your recommendation…

  5. Excellent write-up on the film. After I saw it, I felt absolutely drained. It wasn’t for a day or two after that I realized this was a good thing. Everyone put forth a great performance, but Gyllenhaal’s was outstanding. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t at least receive a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

  6. I’m glad you liked this as much as I did! This is one of my favourite films of the year so far, but I’ve seen a lot of lukewarm reviews. Good to get some validation 😀

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